I am a huge fan of celebrating all holidays, and always love the challenge of making the special treats healthy AND delicious. Halloween is probably one of the biggest refined sugar and super processed crap holidays out there. Yes, I get it when parents say that it's ok for that one day a year. But honestly, it's never just that one day a year. I find when I say that with Baby Zand, it quickly snowballs: there are chocolate Easter eggs, and chocolate Santas, sugar candy for Persian New Year, and buttery heart cookies for Valentine's Day, plus don't forget about all those birthday parties!!! And before you know it, your "once in a while" turned into "every week". And honestly, that is just too much for me. Not just because I understand how high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors wreck havoc on our metabolism, gut, and liver, but also because I see how Baby Zand gets on this extreme sugar high, and then crashes back down and throws even more tantrums. So basically I don't want her to have this for my own selfish reason of keeping my sanity :-) So for every holiday I try to make healthier versions of typical candies and treats. And so far Baby Zand has devoured them all. Fingers crossed I can still get away with this for a few more years...
This year I created a spider chocolate mousse, which is just to die for. It has 3 layers, all creamy and chocolatey and yummy. We start with the base mousse layer, which is so creamy because of - you will never guess it!!! - roasted butternut squash. Yes, I know I currently have a serious butternut squash addiction (check out brown rice pasta with butternut squash tomato sauce and garlic sage butternut squash mash), and as soon as the season is over I will check myself into butternut squash addicts anonymous! Until then, I will keep devouring this chocolate mousse. Then there is a chocolate frosting, made with raw cacao paste. That is the stuff that comes out when you crush raw cacao beans into a liquid, which then solidifies at room temperature. It's pure 100% dark raw chocolate, the good stuff with all the minerals. Did you know that it is one of the highest sources of iron, has more calcium than cow's milk, and works as a natural anti-depressant. This is the real stuff, and you can turn it into the most amazing raw chocolate bites. Sorry, my love affair with raw cacao is taking me off track. Yes, we use this paste to make the chocolate frosting together with creamy cashews and sweet coconut syrup. The third layer is cashew cream, which creates the spider web. And then it all comes together in your mouth as this amazing chocolate explosion. Have I sold it yet? I hope so, because it does take some time! Not much hands on time, just a lot of waiting around. But as a bonus you get a lot of extra chocolate and cashew frosting. In order for most food processors to properly work, and blend these up into real creamy frostings, you can't just use tiny amounts. So you probably only need half of the frostings, which are great just to spoon away over the course of the next week, add them to pancakes or these raw banana crepes. Alternatively, if you are throwing a huge party, go ahead and double the base recipe, making two portions, and then you will have exactly enough frosting. This was a long intro, but I think this recipe deserves it. And before I leave you, make sure you also check out these other Halloween posts:
And I just realized that we are stepping up our raw chocolate game with every Halloween. The easiest is definitely the raw chocolate coconut cups, which are just made with coconut oil and cacao powder. If you are impatient, and don't have a ton of time, go and make those instead. The raspberry jam peanut butter chocolate cups use cacao butter and cacao powder, a little more elaborate. And this year we have reached the pinnacle of raw chocolate making with raw cacao paste. All of them are delicious in their own way. Ok, here we go!
Preparation time: I want to say about 2 hours, so you leave yourself plenty of time to be creative with the spider web!
Soaking time for nuts: at least 2 hours
Makes 8 servings:
For the mousse base:
1 medium sized butternut squash
1/2 cup melted virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract (make your own - it's so much cheaper!)
pinch of Himalayan salt
For the brown chocolate frosting:
2 cups raw cashew nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours
1 cup cacao paste pieces (= 150g/ 5.3oz)
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp coconut syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of Himalayan salt
For the white cashew frosting:
1 1/2 cups cashew nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours
1/4 cup melted virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of Himalayan salt
Pre-heat oven to 200°C/ 400°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, and set to the side.
Cut the butternut squash in half from top to bottom. Place cut sides down on baking tray, and roast for 1 hour until soft.
In the meantime, start working on the brown chocolate frosting. Melt the cacao paste in a warm water bath. I mention this every time we work with raw chocolate, this is tricky. You definitely want to make sure no water spills into the chocolate, it will ruin it. Set yourself up with a pot with water, then a bowl (glass is best) that fits on top of the pot. Heat the water in the pot first, it does not need to boil. Then take the pot off the stove, place the glass bowl on top with the raw cacao paste. Stir often, letting it slowly melt. This will take around 30 minutes. If you have a Thermomix, you can skip this entire step. Just throw the cacao paste in there for 20 minutes at 37 C/ F at spoon speed, and let it melt away.
While the chocolate is melting, drain the cashew nuts, and rinse them well. Add them to food processor with all the other ingredients except the chocolate, and process on high for 2 minutes until broken down. It may not be completely creamy yet, that's ok.
Once the chocolate is melted, carefully add it to the cashew mix, and process again on high for another minute. This time it should come put completely creamy. Set to the side.
Next, make the white cashew cream. Again, drain and rinse the cashew nuts, then add them to the food processor with all the other ingredients, and process on high for 2 minutes until creamy. If it doesn't get creamy, you may want to add another splash of water. Set to the side.
Once the squash is done, scrape out the seeds and discard. Add the squash flesh (without the skin) to the food processor together with all the other base ingredients. Process on high for 1 minute.
Line a round cake tin with a removable bottom with cut out parchment paper circle. Place on bottom of the cake tin, then fill the squash mousse mixture on top. Put this in freezer for about 20 minutes to let it set a little bit.
Take the cake tin out of the freezer, and spread the brown chocolate frosting on top, making a nice thick layer, and evening it out with the help of a spatula.
Fill the white cashew frosting into a zip lock bag, cut off a tiny piece of the bottom corner, and use it as a piping bag. Genius - I know :-). Start in the middle, and pipe a spiral working yourself out to the edge. It's a spider web, it does not have to be perfect! Then pipe lines going out from the center of the circle to the outer edge. Done! You deserve to eat this now. But you may want to pop this back in fridge to let it set a little bit more. The you can get it out of the cake tin more easily. Loosen the bottom of the tin, run a knife around the edge of the cake tin, and wiggle the mousse out. It's ok if it get's a bit messy. It's a mousse, so just smooth it out with the help of a spoon or your fingertips.